There are ancient tribal behaviours—loyalty, interdependency, cooperation—that flourish in human communities during times of turmoil and suffering. These are the very same behaviours that typify good soldiering and foster a sense of belonging among troops, whether they’re fighting on the front lines or engaged in non-combat activities away from the action. Drawing from the fields of history, psychology and anthropology, bestselling author Sebastian Junger shows us the degree to which the structure of modern society is at odds with our tribal instincts, arguing that the difficulties many veterans face upon returning home from war stem not just from the trauma they’ve suffered, but also from the individualist nature of the societies they must reintegrate into.
A 2011 study by the Canadian Forces and Statistics Canada revealed that 78 per cent of military suicides between 1972 and 2006 involved veterans. Though these numbers are an implicit call to action, the government is just now taking steps to address the problems veterans face when they return home. But can the government ever truly eliminate the challenges faced by returning veterans? Or is the problem deeper, woven into the very fabric of our modern existence? Perhaps our circumstances are not so bleak, and simply understanding that—beneath our modern guises—we all belong to one tribe or another would help us face the problems not just of our nation but of our individual lives as well.
Widely researched and compellingly written, this timely look at how veterans react to coming home will change the conversation about veterans’ affairs and help us to repair our current social dynamic.